Questions rise on Kenyans poor show in Rome meet

By Jonathan Komen: Saturday, June 8th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Kenya's Benjamin Kigen in action during the Men's 3000M Steeplechase. [Courtesy]

Furious reactions greeted poor performance of Kenyan athletes at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, the fourth leg of the IAAF Diamond League in Rome, Italy, on Thursday.

The poor show came in the run up to All Africa Games in Rabat, Morocco, from  August 19 to August 31 and the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, from September 28.

In men’s 5,000m, which Kenya has failed to win in major championships in more than five years, Kenyans bowed to Ethiopians inside Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

Ethiopians Telahu Bekele (12:52.98), Selemon Barega (12:53.04) and Hagos Gebrhiwet (12:54.04) swept podium places as Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew (12:56.26) finished fourth.

Edward Zakayo (13:03.19), Bethwel Birgen (13:10.21) and Davis Kiplang’at (13:11.65) returned seventh, 12th and 13th respectively.

America’s Donavan Brazier (1:43.63), 2012 Olympic 800m silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana (1:43.65) and Brandon Mcbride (1:43.65) of Canada sealed top three spots, leaving Ferguson Rotich (1:44.11) and Commonwealth Games 800m champion Wycliffe Kinyamal (1:44.65) to settle for fourth and sixth places.

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Benjamin Kigen, however, lived up to expectations in the 3000m steeplechase, a non-scoring event in Rome.

Like in Rabat and Eugene last year, Kigen’s finishing speed proved unbeatable and he won in a world-leading 8:06.13. Ethiopian duo Getnet Wale and Chala Beyo were second and third in 8:06.83 and 8:09.95 respectively.

Lawrence Kipsang (8:15.68), Barnabas Kipyego (8:20.16), Nicholas Bett (8:29.45) and Abraham Kibiwott (8:32.64) checked in fourth, ninth, 15th and 17th respectively.

Ethiopia’s Olympic 1,500m silver medalist Genzebe Dibaba won 1,500m in 3:56.28 ahead of Britain’s Laura Muir (3:56.73) and Gudaf Tsegay (3:59.96) of Ethiopia. Kenya’s Winny Chebet (4:03.86) finished 10th.

The shocking results generated heated debate on social media. Paul Mutwii, the Athletics Kenya vice president in charge of competitions, said they are aware of the decline.

“We realised the bad trend in almost all middle and long distance track races. As a federation, we have decided to invite coaches for a discussion on it before we select teams to All Africa Games and World Championships.

“Our athletes transit to road-running at an early age, which impact negatively on their performance. We need to formulate policies that help regulate road races,” he said.

But Benjamin Limo, a former IAAF Athlete Representative, blamed it on AK management.

"AK must put their house in order. Here, for example, we have more than 50 managers handling our athletes while Ethiopia has less than 10.

“The World Cross Country senior races should have served as a wake up call when Ugandans Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo won 1-2. It will be no surprise at the World Championships,” he said.

Limo who was the last Kenyan to win 5,000m gold at the World Championships in 2005.

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